by Lyn Longo
I have three grand children; 7, 6 and 3. My purse and I have suffered significantly from the skillfully crafted stimulation of the “Collector Gene.”
First was the “Beanie Boo” passion. These large doe eyed soft toys come in hundreds of forms, all with appealing names, bright colours, representing popular animals and oh so collectable. Manufacturers cleverly release a few new designs at a time and “retire” popular older ones making them scarce and valuable. It is astounding how much the adults will pay to ensure their indulged offspring has the artificially created rare toy.
The “My Little Pony” obsession developed before the Beanie Boos had lost their value. These horse characters are based on an animated series that oozes American values. While ostensibly the cartoons and movies promote friendship and loyalty, there is a generous helping of consumerist obsession. Appearance and possessions are of primary importance and there is the usual American practice of presenting characters that are mini adults,that I find abhorrent. The children and their foolish cash providers are enticed by gorgeous coloured manes, clever names, and an infinite range of sizes and styles. We are manipulated to buy the special edition range and once more by the manufactured low availability of some forms.
An Australian invention called “The Shopkins” were the next collectibles to mesmerize the children. Based on grocery store items, each plastic figure has a recognisable face and unique name. They also have special finishes like translucent, glitter, or squishy. The packaging cleverly disguises how little one receives for your outlay. What is the message for the children? Shopping is a joyous activity and buying things has more value than relationships and creativity.
We’ve had Paw Patrol collections, Super Heroes especially Spiderman with its astonishing variety of products, Hatchimals, and Star Wars paraphernalia. The sex role stereotyping of the Paw Patrol characters leave me depressed and frustrated. The male dogs are adventurous problem solvers and the one female dog…..is pink!
However by far the most diabolically successful collectibles are the Coles Minis. The latest incarnation caused traffic jams and trolley rage at a local shopping centre on the first day of release. This range that again are shrunken versions of actual products are given added value by the accessories that can be purchased. A collector’s case, a miniature trolley and a cash register are being sold. All are reasonably priced but are designed to ensure that the cash source shops at Coles and spends multiples of $30 to receive a plastic bag of plastic advertising.
The success of this ingenious method of brainwashing the future consumers is illustrated by the excited exclamations “look Mum, there’s a Coles Mini” as they notice a full sized version of a product. How utterly inspired is this concept where producers are no doubt lining up to pay for this advertising, Coles is benefitting from a huge increase in sales, the accessories are selling out fast and are doubtless turning a profit and another generation of consumers are being groomed!!